Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Kudos for a classic (not porn)

Well, I think it's pretty classic . . .

Anyway, A. Fortis at Readers' Rants has a great and thoughtful review of Barbara Shoup's Wish You Were Here. A highlight:

Wish You Were Here is a wrenching and very realistic story about a nice guy who ends up with a rather long playlist of life's problems suddenly dumped on him. Most people wouldn't cope too well, and Jax makes his share of mistakes, but ultimately this is a story of losing oneself in order to find oneself. It does not pull punches. And contrary to what it says on Amazon in terms of age recommendations (12 and up for PW; Grade 8 and up for SLJ), I'd probably say that 14 and up/Grade 9 and up is a bit more appropriate, considering the sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.
There is a bit of sex in this book and it's entirely appropriate for the reviewer to point it out (and we "re-fucked" the text for our edition--tolerances have changed since it came out in hardcover), but I think more needs to be said. The main sex scene is a great example of certain kind of teen sex scene. Shoup doesn't hit you with a "message" about sex (which would be nauseating under any circumstances), but there's something undeniably off about what's happening in the scene on page 211 where Jackson and Stephanie, well, you know . . . I think John Green (who now lives in the same town as Barb Shoup, coincidentally) wrote a great version of such a scene in Looking For Alaska (you know the one), and he explicates it rather well about two minutes into this video from his vlog:

I love this vlog for lots of reasons.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Schadenfreude Monday

Billy Ray Cyrus' daughter, Hannah Montana star, and all-around teen icon Miley Cyrus recently appeared in a Vanity Fair photo shoot by Annie Leibowitz. Her shirt did not appear in the same photo shoot, so it was replaced by a demurely positioned satin sheet. Apparently this is a problem.

Actually, I'm much more troubled by this quote from the"relationships, marriage, and parenting" blog Telling It Like It Is: "I figured it was only a matter of time before she [Cyrus] was added to the increasing number of teen pop stars heading down the path towards becoming a tramp, right along with Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears." (It's amazing how prevelant that virgin-whore dichotomy becomes in pop culture once you start looking for it.)

I have no great affinity for Disney pop stars and I have never seen or heard Hannah Montana the TV show, but as far as I can tell Miley Cyrus stands on the cusp of having herself and her fictional persona actually vilified for fictional sexual transgressions--remember, these aren't paparazzi photos. Whether Lohan or Spears are "tramps" is legitimately debatable, I guess (it's a very silly, boring debate, in my opinion), and it's true that they have been extensively photographed by paparazzi in in various unsavory situations. But this photo was taken by one of the most famous and respected portrait photographers ever, in a studio, in the full view of dozens of adults including many ostensibly responsible for Cyrus' welfare. The photo itself is a pose--a fiction--not a caught-in-the-act photo--not journalism. I don't disagree that it is a suggestive photo, but it seems very bizarre to me that it makes her an actual "tramp" or that Miley Cyrus is the problem here, especially in the eyes of a blog that seems to value protecting children (remember, Miley Cyrus is 15). Seems to me that the blogger is confused about who the transgressor here is.

But, then again, to most people, Miley Cyrus is probably less real than ostensibly fictional Hannah Montana (who, apparently, is actually just a rockstar persona of Miley Stewart, who is nothing more than an average California teen--at least according to my Wikipedia research on the show) so maybe we should expect confusion.

Anyway, in the interest of not confusing fact with fiction, the Flux authors and I agree to take full responsibility for any unsavory things the characters in their novels might do. Please don't call them tramps; it's not their fault.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Good Thursday (big kudos for Emily Wing Smith)

It's Friday and it's raining, and it may snow tonight, but yesterday was cool enough to make it all okay. First, I got to do a Q & A and booktalk with six teens from the Maplewood Public Library teen group, and that's always a ton of fun, but even more exciting is this lovely endorsement I received from the fabulous Sara Zarr for Emily Wing Smith's The Way He Lived.

"This is an absolutely breathtaking and groundbreaking debut about family, community, and faith, and how those things hold up under the microscope of tragedy and in the face of the gray areas that make up so much of life. It's about the ways we know and don't know the people closest to us, including ourselves. Powerful, funny, beautiful, and infinitely real. I love this book."
Wow. Sara Zarr is critically acclaimed author of two remarkable YAs, including the National Book Award finalist Story of a Girl. We are all extremely excited to receive such an emphatic endorsement.

I see that there's no descriptive copy for the book yet on the Flux Web site, so allow me to whet any and all appetites with the one-sentence pitch for the book I use with people around the office (which really only begins to cover the depth and range of Emily's novel):

"In a town like Haven, 16-year-old Joel Epstein could never be who he really was, and now that he’s gone, six teens and a whole community are questioning what they’ve become."

It’s a beautiful portrayal of how one person’s life can anchor a town, and how its departure can unhinge it. Six teens, including his sisters and best friend tell the story of their world without Joel. In its head-on confrontation of faith, family, and sexuality, it's one of the bravest YAs I've ever read. It draws no easy conclusions but is completely riveting.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Band Geekery and cool connections

School Library Journal has launched a new twice-monthly e-newsletter called SLJTeen, and it's got a very cool local connection. The teen reviewers come from a local ALA teen reading group that I've had the enormous pleasure to work with occasionally. So, I'm extremely pleased that the first review of the new newsletter is of Josie Bloss's debut Band Geek Love. It's a review with the unmistakable critical accuity of a real teen reader (in this case, 15 year old Sara M.):

"This is a cute story, though by no means is it groundbreaking. But what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in a memorable cast of characters that jump off the page. The story moves quickly, and it doesn't take half of the book for the Ellie, the main character, to meet the guy that she falls for, which seems to be the custom in other teenage romance novels."
It's a good review, and we're thrilled to be featured in this new venture from SLJ. Sign up (it's free; just scroll down past the part about the magazine to email newsletters)!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Is it just me?

Or does anyone else find the notion of these two advocacy children's picture books coexisting on the same shelf incredibly amusing?

Because every social/political issue needs a picture book, right?

*Brian points out that some people in the world haven't heard of My Beautiful Mommy, which does for cosmetic surgery what Everybody Poops does for excrement. Click the picture for the full story. I couldn't be bothered to explain that because I was working on my proposal for Visiting Daddy at Club Fed, a picture book that explains how the Sarbanes-Oxley act rips families apart. I've already got the blurb from Martha.

(Thanks BoingBoing and Big A little a)

Friday, April 18, 2008

More Piracy

I've got another great blurb for A. S. King's Dust of 100 Dogs to share. This time, Heather Brewer, author of Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series, weighs in:

"Exciting, fascinating, spellbinding. A rich tale of a girl born with a compass firmly planted in her hand. A.S. King is a force to be reckoned with. I'd follow Saffron into the briny deep."
-Heather Brewer, author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

Commenters on previous posts have had many nice things to say about the cover for The Dust of 100 Dogs and I think rightly so. It was a cover that came about in a way strangely suitable for the book. In the same way I was not looking for a "reincarnated pirate girl book" (a phrase that has become the internal shorthand for the book) when the manuscript showed up, I did not expect this cover at all. It was a complete and wonderful surprise.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kudos for Shoup and DeKeyser

Two authors writing at opposite ends of the teen age spectrum received excellent reviews today (reviews which, in their phrasing, almost feel like they were written by the same person).

Booklist just sent along a great review for Barbara Shoup's Everything You Want. Some highlights:

"What could have been a predictably moralistic tale becomes, thanks to Shoup’s rich characterizations and Emma’s dry wit, a surprisingly moving portrait of a young woman’s efforts to find and accept herself. [. . .] From the cover to the intricately entwined relationships that drive the story, Shoup delivers clever details that call to mind Joan Bauer’s humor and humanism."

And The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books offers this on Stacy DeKeyser's Jump the Cracks:

"DeKeyser crafts what could be a contrived scenario with step-by-step credibility, and the linkage between Victoria’s own parental disappointments and her dismay over the boy’s mother’s indifference is an effective motivator that’s overtly but not heavy handedly outlined. The book’s acknowledgment that good solutions can be tough to achieve is bracingly realistic [. . . . ] With a combination of lively adventure and humane treatment of its characters, this is an absorbing and emotionally effective read, suitable for those looking to move up from the oeuvre of Willo Davis Roberts."

What's up with Jacobs?

As usual, it takes an actual teenager to cut straight to the heart of the problem in YA fiction. No, it's not the dearth of mysteries or the superabundance of butts on covers. It's Jacobs. Pure and simple. The problem is Jacobs.

Sharp-eyed readers of Publisher Marketplace might have noticed that Laurie Stolarz's Jacob will be returning, along with Stacey, Drea, Amber, PJ, and Chad, in a fifth installment in the Blue is for Nightmares series. Black is for Beginnings will arrive in fall 2009. And it'll be a graphic novel.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Are you visiting Robin Friedman's blog?

Because you should be. Robin was very reluctant to start blogging, but once she decided to take the plunge . . well, she really went at it. Recent pithy, bite-size contributions have come from John Green, Sara Zarr, Mitali Perkins, and Cynthia Smith.

Check it out.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How stuff works..

If you've got a moment, read this appreciation, from the New York Times, of old-school publishing figure Simon Michael Bessie. It's fascinating and perspective inducing (yes, if you manage to reject Lolita and The Godfather, you will live to tell about it).

And, yes, to answer the question you will all surely ask, when I make an offer, it goes exactly like this:

"One day, as [John] Cheever was staring out the window, a sailing yacht appeared in the harbor and dropped anchor. A man in white flannels and a double-breasted blazer was rowed ashore in a dinghy and announced in the voice of a literate aristocrat to the small crowd that had gathered to greet him, 'I’m looking for John Cheever.'"

“It was Simon Michael Bessie,” Ms. Cheever writes, “a senior editor at Harper & Row, and he had come to buy ‘The Wapshot Chronicle.’ ”

Mystery of mysteries

Roger Sutton has a good conversation going on his blog about teen mysteries. It's worth a read.

Some advance praise and a sneak peek

A.S. King's debut novel The Dust of 100 Dogs isn't due out for another fourteen months, but a lucky few have already read the manuscript and the word is spreading. Author Lisa McMann, whose own debut Wake recently landed on the New York Times Bestseller list, is guest blogging on a MySpace blog, and she mused about how difficult it is to write a blurb for A. S. King's book: "I’m not agonizing because I’m having trouble thinking of anything good to write, that’s for sure. It’s the trying to put all the good things into a small space that’s the problem." Well, she managed to do it eventually, and we're very grateful and encouraged.

"The Dust of 100 Dogs is a non-traditional pirate tale with a dangerously raw, mystical edge and a unique modern twist that will make you cringe, despair, despise and adore. Deliciously fresh and starkly unforgettable...for at least the next three hundred years."
–Lisa McMann, NYT bestselling author of Wake

And, to give you an idea of the story, here's the short blurb I wrote for around the office:

"In the late 17th century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of sailing into early retirement with unfathomable wealth and her one true love when she was fatally cursed with 'the dust of 100 dogs,' dooming her to 100 lives as a dog, before she finally reincarnates in a human body—with all her memories intact. Now she’s a contemporary American teenager, and all she really needs a shovel and a ride to Jamaica."

It's been a great week for The Dust of 100 Dogs all around. We just got the cover. Check it out. I think it captures "non-traditional pirate tale" quite nicely.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Reviews for Monday

Let's start off the week with a round of reviews, shall we? The Edge of the Forest online magazine was kind enough to render opinions on a number of Flux books this month--in fact they had so much YA to review they did a special feature in addition to their regular YA reviews.

Some highlights:

Band Geek Love by Josie Bloss: "[Ellie's] not the most sympathetic of narrators, but when four years worth of drama catches up with her, Ellie's insecurities as she negotiates the new world of emotions are pathetic and realistic. Anyone who has tried to control what other people think of them will recognize the flailing and freaking out that Ellie does as she realizes that the world is what it is, and she's not in control of anything."

Or Not by Brian Mandabach: "Though Brian Mandabach creates in Cassie a character very unlike the average middle school student, the voice is real. Sarcastic, self-righteous, and idealistic, Cassie struggles with becoming, and also with being brighter than everyone else and despising them—and herself—for various reasons."

Everything You Want by Barbara Shoup: "Barbara Shoup has written an angsty, funny, poignant novel about confusion and heartache and...life. Read it. Even if you don't win Lotto Cash afterwards, you'll be richer for it."

Snapshots by Paul Buchanan: "Beautifully told in a quiet "snapshots" of the present in the past, this novel is a haunting collage of a friendship, a love and an inconceivable, inconsolable loss. Without resorting to melodrama or a massive climactic scene, this is also a novel about gathering what is broken, and learning to survive what has gone."

Do check out the whole publication (and don't miss Barbara Shoup's interview with Peter Cameron) and sign up to receive notification of new issues.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Nice things

Über blogger and bookseller Little Willow posted her March reading faves recently. Carrie Jones' Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape) and Girl, Hero made the list, as did Jossie Bloss' excellent debut Band Geek Love. Congrats one and all.

Additional: And I have to share this review of Carrie's Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend because it's so freakin' cool.

OR NOT video trailer

From one of Brian Mandabach's students, no less.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Her hat's in the ring

Many of you already know that Carrie Jones isn't satisfied with being an enormously talented children's book author. She's also in the rough-and-tumble world of Maine politics (I'm picturing kayak paddles and a lot of flannel) . Carrie is officially a candidate for the Maine state legislature (District 38, which probably includes, in spirit, Eastbrook, ME). She needs your support in any way you can give it.

Carrie Jones: A candidate Belle, Em, Dylan, Tom, and even Mimi can agree on.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Flux: Appealing to "prurient interests" ever since 2006

Some of you may have been following the news of the law in Indiana requiring sellers of "sexually explicit material" to register and pay a licensing fee. Publishers Weekly did an article on it, and suggested that sexually explicit meant "any product that is 'harmful to minors' under existing law." As is almost always the case with laws of this sort, its framers intend for it to target a fairly narrow group of retailers, but of course the language is frighteningly vague. As PW blogger Alison Morris points out in a recent post, this has implications for all sorts of children's booksellers. She writes:

"If you were (or are) an general or children's bookseller in Indiana, what do you do under this new law? Do you register with the state and see your store's name listed alongside self-professed peddlers of pornography? Or do you make the decision NOT to register, and run the risk of facing charges or being fined? You tell me."

Indeed. Everyone should have a look at the Alison's post.

This is especially amusing to me since next month we'll be releasing the first paperback edition of Indiana-author Barbara Shoup's excellent Wish You Were Here. When I was talking about the book with her, she mentioned that Hyperion, the publisher of the first edition, asked her to tone down some of the language. I asked her tone it the hell back up for the paperback. I wonder if she'll get in trouble. . .